Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Ong San Soo Chee), Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, symbolises the struggle of Burma’s people to be free.
She was born on June 19th, 1945 to Burma’s independence hero, Aung San, who was assassinated when she was only two years old.
Aung San Suu Kyi was educated in Burma, India, and the United Kingdom. While studying at Oxford University, she met Michael Aris, a Tibet scholar who she married in 1972. They had two sons, Alexander and Kim. On March 27 1999, while Aung San Suu Kyi was in Burma, Michael Aris died of cancer in London. He had petitioned the Burmese authorities to allow him to visit Suu Kyi one last time, but they had rejected his request. He had not seen her since a Christmas visit in 1995. The government always urged Suu Kyi to join her family abroad, but she knew that she would not be allowed to return.
Aung San Suu Kyi had returned to Burma in 1988 to nurse her dying mother and was immediately plunged into the country’s nationwide democracy uprising. Joining the newly-formed National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi gave numerous speeches calling for freedom and democracy. The military regime responded to the uprising with brute force, killing up to 5,000 demonstrators. Unable to maintain its grip on power, the regime was forced to call a general election in 1990.
As Aung San Suu Kyi began to campaign for the NLD, she and many others were detained by the regime. Despite being held under house arrest, the NLD went on to win a staggering 82% of the seats in parliament. The regime never recognized the results of the election.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been in and out of arrest ever since. She was held under house arrest from 1989-1995, and again from 2000-2002. She was again arrested in May 2003 after the Depayin massacre, during which up to 100 of her supporters were beaten to death by the regime’s militia. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest in Rangoon. Her phone line has been cut, her post is intercepted and National League for Democracy volunteers providing security at her compound were removed in December 2004.
She has won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. She called on people around the world to join the struggle for freedom in Burma, saying “Please use your liberty to promote ours”.
Aung San Suu Kyi was found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her house and refused to leave. She was sentenced to 18 months under house arrest on 11 August 2009. She was released from house arrest on 13 November 2010, after spending a total of 15 years in detention.
Aung San Suu Kyi is now a Member of Parliament, after the National League for Democracy party won 43 of the 45 seats contested (representing about 7% of the total seats) in the bye-elections held on 1 April 2012.